Turkey 120: HOMEWORK

I was planning on making this post yesterday, but I got so busy I wasn’t able to…sorry I’m late!

In my last turkish lesson, I covered some suggestions and requirements for tourists visiting Turkey- based on my own experiences four years ago.  I included some homework at the end of the lesson, requesting questions about visiting Turkey from those who have not been there before.  I’m glad I did!  Here are a list of very interesting questions I have received, with answers.  I tried to divide them up into sensible categories…




Q: Is it hard to convert? Is items that are popular (evil eye beads, etc.) super expensive? How much would you take for a day trip? Is there places to convert money? What about tipping?
A: There are lots of places to exchange money in big cities,  but you do pay a fee so it is better to do it as little as possible. Depending on what you are doing you could get by with as little as 100tl if you are buying souvenirs and eating from food carts,  or as much as 500tl if you are going to go to sites with fees, use taxis, and eat at nicer restaurants.  For tipping,  you are only required to at nice restaurants.  Whatever you do,  keep your currency in smaller bills


Food and Drink

Q: Favorite food and must try foods?
A: Someone asked me this before and it is an impossible question!  I love Turkish food,  and limiting my list is so hard.  But if I had to,  I think I would say midye (mussels stuffed with spiced rice) is my favorite.  You should definitely find those.  Döner and ayran (shaved meat sandwich and a salty yogurt drink) is something you must try! Sarma (grape leaves and rice) and Turkish sweets are also important to try!


Social and Cultural Interaction

Q: How do people greet one another?
A: you can either use “merhaba”  or “merhabalar” which is the Turkish translation of “hello”,  or “selam” which has a religious connotation

Q: How are gender roles perceived? How to not offend while a tourist?
A: Tourists get a lot of slack so you probably won’t offend anyone accidentally.  Gender roles aren’t that different than the US honestly. . If anything,  women deal more with the public than men do.

Q: How to be a tourist without looking like a tourist in Turkey?
A: What gives away tourists are the cameras,  hats,  etc.  But native turks can also be tourists in some cities.  Keeping your shoulders and knees covered can help you blend in- but of course there are turks who sport strappy tank tops and mini skirts as well.

Q: What personal activities is viewed as private and what is okay in public? Are there things considered super rude that we do constantly in America? (Like hugging in public?)
A: Turks are actually more affectionate to same sex friends than Americans.  Men and women will hug and kiss the cheeks of their same sex friends. Opposite sex interactions are more limited though, even for couples.  For example,  PDA is a big no no.  Lip kissing in public,  even between married people,  is frowned upon. Hugs and hand holding is OK though.

Q: What is personal space limits? Do you smile at people or is this a way to get unwanted attention?
A: smiling at opposite sex strangers is a big no no.  Giving any attention outside of the absolute necessary should be avoided.  It’s not like you can’t purchase anything from an opposite sex vendor,  but don’t go chatting up someone.  Personal space is similar.  Women to women have less personal space necessities than women to men.

Q: Are the stereotypes true? (I know rude kind of question?)
A: If by stereotypes you mean the meek women and demanding men Muslim stereotypes then no,  not at all.  What really shocked me was how Turkish women are usually the ones who interact with vendors and officials. In Turkey,  a woman is culturally allowed to rebuke and scold more so than men.  For example,  when the builders were dragging their feet when my in-laws were adding to their house,  my mom in-law was the one expected to fuss at them.

Q: When is it appropriated and mandated to wear head covering? Is it okay to loosely drape over hair?
A: The only time you need to wear a headscarf is in an active mosque,  like the blue mosque.  As long as your scarf covers your chest it can be loose for tourists… Naturally, actual religious requirements can be more strict.

Q: What are some basic Turkish phrases we must learn in order to be polite in turkey? What things to say in restaurants when ordering or ordering when buying gifts and responses when dealing with money?

A: no one demands much of an effort from tourists (unlike France).  But you can always go with hello, goodbye,  please and thank you… Which are merhaba, hoşçakal (hosh chahkal), lütfen (lootfen), and teşekkür ederim (teshehkoor ehdehrim).


Things to See/Do*

*In Istanbul and Ephesus

Q: Why is Turkey a place you want to go?
A: Why ISN’T Turkey a place you’d want to go?  ;).  For me,  Turkey has so much significant history,  ancient and otherwise, there is so much to see. Also,  it is an a amazing bridge between eastern and western cultures.

Q: What are some must see sites in Istanbul? 
A: There is simply too much to see in Istanbul! I enjoyed the Topkapı palace,  hagia sofia,  and spice bazaar the most.  My hubby loves the Pierre loti cafe,  it has an amazing view of Istanbul.

Q: What to do in Ephesus?
A: the three major things to see are St Johns basilica,  the ruins of Efes,  and the home of Mary,  the mother of Jesus.  Be warned,  they aren’t all close together,  so plan ahead!

Q: What to do about taxi services? Is it safe to walk around?
A: Walking is the main form of transportation if you want to see a city.  Taxis are like NYC,  you flag them down and prepare yourself for being overcharged.

Q: Is there a place you consider the prettiest site in Turkey? Particularly Istanbul or Ephesus related*
A: Everywhere is amazing, but for Istanbul it would be the cafe I mentioned earlier.  For Ephesus, I was really blown away at the library ruins.

Q: I have heard of the famous bazaar there but is it a place to go? 
A: if you are talking about the spice bazaar,  then absolutely! If not for the sites, then for the goodies! Be sure to buy an assortment of Turkish sweets samples, and not just Turkish delight! I love candy sucuk (regular sucuk is sausage), which is a fruit gummy log with nuts inside… Mmmmmmmm !



Q: Hardest adjustment Americans will have to make?
A: Two words.  Turkish.  Toilets.  Carry toilet paper and 1tl coins… And go ahead and practice your squats.

Q: How late is too late to be out in Turkey? Is 6 o’clock reasonable time?
A: that depends on where you are… But city centers are bustling all night long! We were out in Istanbul at 10pm, drinking tea at the Pierre loti cafe! However I would advise exploring only during day light hours so you don’t get lost.

Q: What is the number one souvenir you think tourist would need to bring back when they go to Turkey?
That depends on the person.  Consumable: Turkish delight.  Decor or jewelry: nazar charms.  Usable: tea cup or cezve (Turkish coffee pot)

Q: Are you allowed to take pics inside mosques or this considered offensive? 
A: It is OK unless there is a sign saying otherwise

  Thanks to those who sent in questions!  If you have any additional questions, please include them in the comments below and I will edit the list as long as I can.  For more tips and tricks to navigating Turkey and Turkish life, check out my turkish lessons series!  Undoubtedly the lessons will be getting more and more detailed as I too learn how to live a Turkish Life!


Turkey 120: A guide for tourists

I found out recently that one of my best friends will be visiting Turkey with her family as part of a Mediterranean cruise in September (inshallah!).  This made me think about when I first went to Turkey and visited places like Istanbul and Ephesus, places that she will also see!  I have so many good memories of my tourist experience- but I also recall some things that I wish I did differently…and things I wouldn’t have known to do if I wasn’t with the locals!  This brings me to this turkish lesson, which is more of a guide, actually…


A guide for tourists in Turkey!

While every person should make their own, individual experience when they go to Turkey- I have compiled a list of things to do in order to make the most of a limited amount of time in some of the most intriguing cities in the world!

Before beginning the guide, let me be clear… Turkey is not full of jerks, nor is it particularly dangerous compared to other countries.  The thing is, every big/touristy city attracts hustlers and low lives.  Furthermore, you don’t have to warn people about how awesome something is, but rather you warn them about the dangers.  So, please, don’t get the wrong idea…

Many of these suggestions can apply to Paris, Rome, New York, Berlin… anywhere really!

But on a blog about Turkey… you get Turkey 😉


Must do’s/ don’ts

when in Turkey, you must…

1. Keep your wallet secure:  pick pockets love a busy city- and that is exactly where you’ll be!  Men, keep your wallets out of your back pocket.  Ladies, carry a purse with zippers, and even better, one with a cross-body strap.  Frequently check to make sure all of your items are secure!

2. Carry water:  Keep a full bottle of water with you at all times, especially in the summer!  You don’t want to be caught in a bind, dehydrating and forced to pay for overpriced beverages.

3. Wear comfortable shoes: Whenever you are a tourist- there will be tons of walking.  Turkey is no different.  In order to trek the many streets in these old cities, you should wear comfortable walking shoes.

4.  Carry an umbrella:  You never know when the weather will turn sour, even though rain is not a huge issue in Turkey.  You would be remiss to miss out on many sites because of a sudden rain shower.

5. Photos Photos Photos: Make sure your camera is charged and you have an extra SD card, because you will definitely be taking MANY pictures!

6. Keep currency in small bills: Most likely you will be purchasing many things on your trip!  Most of your buys will be reasonably priced- make it easier for the vendors and yourself by keeping your cash in increments of 5 or 10 lira.  That gives you the added bonus of not broadcasting a large bill in public…which may encourage unscrupulous vendors to overcharge.

7. Don’t always trust a stranger:  While Turkey is full of incredibly hospitable and kind people, some take advantage of the naivete of foreigners.  When in doubt, stick to your instincts.  Don’t follow a stranger into a secluded location, don’t give money to someone who claims to be a tour guide without any identification, don’t ask for directions from individuals, and don’t give your camera to someone to take your picture for you- if they are not clearly staff.  When in need, approach families.


when in Turkey, I suggest…

1. Dress modestly:  Not only to avoid a hassle, but also to broaden your opportunities!  Active mosques such as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul have a dress code for men and women- so be prepared to throw on a jacket or twist a scarf around your head to see the insides of some amazing architecture!

2. Enjoy the food carts:  In my opinion, some of the best foods come from a cart!  The street vendors always have something delicious to serve you- and for a better price than the restaurants.  While you can enjoy any dish served in the restaurants throughout Turkey, eating from a cart may reduce your waiting time and the price of your meal!

3. Check the merchandise: Before buying from a vendor, be sure to carefully check the quality of your purchase.  Don’t get caught with a ripped seam in that cute top, or a chip in that tea cup!

4.  Prepare an itinerary:  While I am typically a “fly by the seat of your pants” or “play it by ear” type of girl, I missed out on many sites because I didn’t plan ahead.  Make a list of the things you absolutely have to see- and keep distance in mind!  This will help you get the most out of your time, while reducing the amount of wandering you will do.


  This lesson comes with a homework assignment.  If you have any questions about touring in Turkey, send me a list and I will answer them on Thursday in a separate post!  My aforementioned friend already turned in hers- so there will definitely be something to read.  Any redundant questions will be answered once.  See you then!

Turkish Military Waiver

Greetings and Happy Holidays all!

If you have been following Turkish news, the government has recently offered a brief window during which qualified male citizens may pay a fee in order to waive their required military service (a must-do to maintain your citizenship).  Well, hubby qualifies, so we are off to New York soon, inshallah!

The window of opportunity is from December 18 (last week) until February 18, 2015.  Still, the consulate doesn’t seem to know what is going on.  In Turkey it is simple, go to the office where you register for military service, obtain paperwork, go to the bank and pay your fee, and bring your receipt and paperwork back to the registrar.  In the US, however, it seems more fuzzy.  As it stands, it appears that we are to obtain the paperwork from the Turkish Consulate and pay the fee at a Turkish bank.  Both are available in NYC, which is why we are going in January!  It isn’t clear whether or not one needs an appointment with the consulate, or with the bank…or if it is a walk-in type ordeal.  Hopefully it will be completed in the several days we will be in the city!!

We have every intention of doing a little sight seeing as well 🙂

Updates as they come!  If anyone knows about the details for the US process let me know!